The Poet, John Greenleaf Whittier And Hampton -- Part 3
"Our Town" By James W. Tucker
Hampton Union, Thursday, September 29, 1960
Peace of Mind
Tent at White Rock
The Green Bluff
Our Beach in 1867
"Untouched as yet by wealth and pride,
That virgin innocence of beach;
No shingly monster, hundred-eyed
Stared its gray sand birds out of reason;
Unhoused, save where, at intervals,
The white tents showed their canvass reach;
Where brief sojourners, in the cool, soft air,
Forgot their inland heats, hard toil and year-long care."
"Sometimes along the wheel-deep sand
A one-horse wagon slowly crawled,
Deep laden with a youthful band,
Whose look some homestead old recalled;
Brothers perchance, and sisters twain;
And one whose blue eyes told more plain
Than the free language of her rosy lip,
Of the still dearer claim of love's relationship."
We wonder how Whittier would like our Beach today -- a Beach most assuredly touched by wealth and pride -- a Beach where hundreds of many windowed, "shingly monsters" (hotels) look out on gulls and sandpipers -- a Beach that no longer retains its virgin innocence.
Crank of Opinion Mill
"And one there was, a dreamer born,
Who, with a mission to fulfill,
Had left the Muses' haunts to turn
The crank of an opinion mill,
Making his rustic reed of song
A weapon in the war with wrong,
Yoking his fancy to the breaking-plough.
That beam-deep turned the soil for truth to spring and grow.
"Too quiet seemed the man to ride
The winged Hippogriff Reform;
Was his a voice from side to side
To pierce the tumult of the storm
A silent, shy, peace-loving man,
He seemed no fiery partisan
To hold his way against the public frown,
The ban of church and state, the fierce mob's hounding down."
In his poem, "The Wreck of the Rivermouth," written in 1864 Whittier gives poetical descriptions of landmarks still famous in our town, and his own ideas of the appearance of Goody Cole, that unfortunate woman of colonial days who was falsely accused of witchcraft. This description might well have been written today:
"And fair are the sunny isles in view
East of the grisly Head of the Boar,
And Agamenticus lifts its blue
Disk of a cloud the woodlands o'oer;
And southerly, when the tide is down,
Twixt white sea-waves and sand hills brown,
The beach-birds dance and the gray gulls wheel
Over a floor of burnished steel."
"Poor Old Soul"
"'Fie on the Witch!' cried a merry girl,
As they rounded the point where Goody Cole
Sat by her door with her wheel atwirl,
A bent and blear-eyed poor old soul.
"'She's cursed,' said the Skipper; 'speak her fair;
I'm scary always to see here shake
Her wicked head, with its wild gray hair,
And more like a hawk, and eyes like a snake.'
But merrily still, with laugh and shout,
From Hampton River the boat sailed out,
Till the huts and flakes on Star seemed nigh,
And they lost the scent of the pines of Rye."
Storm and Wreck
"Goody Cole looked out from her door;
The Isles of Shoals were drowned and gone,
Scarcely she saw the Head of the Boar
Toss the foam from tusks of stone.
She clasped here hands with a grip of pain;
The tear on his cheek was not of rain
'They are lost,' she muttered, 'boat and crew!
Lord forgive me! My words were true.'"
He Knew Hampton
Worthy of Memorial